You can find it easily enough at dp.la. Your browser should add all the rest of the stuff to the URL for you.
You can read about it in the New York Review at The National Digital Public Library Is Launched! The article is only two pages long – and is well-worth reading.
This effort is pure altruism – that the Internet made possible – much like Wikipedia. Americans can be proud of themselves – but most will probably ignore it entirely – since it won’t make any money for them.
From the article:
Speaking broadly, the DPLA represents the confluence of two currents that have shaped American civilization: utopianism and pragmatism. The utopian tendency marked the Republic at its birth, for the United States was produced by a revolution, and revolutions release utopian energy—that is, the conviction that the way things are is not the way they have to be. When things fall apart, violently and by collective action, they create the possibility of putting them back together in a new manner, according to higher principles.
The American revolutionaries drew their inspiration from the Enlightenment—and from other sources, too, including unorthodox varieties of religious experience and bloody-minded convictions about their birthright as free-born Englishmen. Take these ingredients, mix well, and you get the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights—radical assertions of principle that would never make it through Congress today.
What the article does not go into is something very important – copyright laws. These badly need to be updated for our information (or knowledge) economy. These have been extended back in time endlessly – for no good reason. They should be limited to the usual life of any printed material – only a few years.
Copyright law also needs to be extended to allow books to be rented from any digital library. The technology for this is available and is being used in places like Amazon’s Kindle where you can rent any book for any time you chose. This should be extended to all books. Publishers would have to allow this, whether they want to or not. And eventually all nations would have to agree with this – just as they do the existing copyright laws.
The difficulty is the many proprietary formats for electronic books. Everybody wants to force everyone else to use their format. With no thought at all to the common good – which is considered a ridiculous idea.
The problem, in the last analysis, is much larger – we should be in control of our world – but we are not – and don’t want to be.